Howells wants the business world to develop a greater community spirit and has launched a government study and website to help companies play a greater role in their local environment
The minister made a financial case for greater community links: when price and quality are equal 81% of consumers are more likely to buy products associated with a good cause, while 73% of people said that they would be more loyal to an employer who supports the local community, according to a recent study.
‘Corporate responsibility does not end with a tax payment to the exchequer,’ said Howells. ‘Businesses are inextricably linked to the communities that they serve, and survey after survey has shown that a company that gives something back to its community can reap rich dividends in increased custom and staff loyalty.’
He was backed by Bill Cockburn, group managing director of British Telecom and chair of Business in the Community’s business impact task force.
‘Corporate responsibility is an area of ever increasing importance to shareholders, customers, employees and other stakeholders,’ said Cockburn.
Alison Portlock, project manager for the ICAEW’s community programme Everybody Counts, described the announcement as ‘a really important measure. We know that a lot of accountants engage in community work and we’re pleased at the extra impetus those endeavours will be given by this.’
‘We’re delighted that community responsibility is being given such prominence. Work at this level and the appointment of a minister can only enhance the prominence of these ideas.’
The measures include:
- Involving the Small Business Service to help SMEs evaluate their corporate social responsibility and share good practice;
- Encouraging pension fund managers to invest in companies practising sustainable development;
- Encouraging the creation of ‘social enterprises’ especially in deprived areas;
- Supporting a Europe-wide campaign;
- Agreeing good practice for government departments and officials; and
- Information sharing.
Examples of companies that featured in the report include: Asda, B&Q, BT and Unilever.
The DTI’s initiative